Serge Ibaka, better known as ‘Iblocka’ to the Orlando Magic faithful, has been a shining light in a franchise dogged by inconstistency and dull performances thus far this season.
The power forward, acquired through a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder that sent the second overall 2013 draft pick Victor Oladipo in the opposite direction, has provided the Magic with a dependable scoring outlet. On a team where offensive threat is hard to come by, Ibaka has been a welcome addition to the franchise.
Serge Ibaka’s Value to Orlando: A Statistical Analysis
The off-season has seen the Orlando Magic of old take an almost unrecognizable step into the 2016-17 season, with an abundance of new faces arriving in Orlando, both personnel and players.
Frank Vogel arrived at the Magic during the off-season with a vision, one which he abided by with great focus and determination. ‘The Big-Man Experiment‘ was implemented into the Magic’s player recruitment the day he stepped foot in Orlando. The intended idea by Vogel was to play big basketball, to dominate on defense and offense, as well as control the glass. This saw some rash changes, some of which the fans weren’t too happy about. The bold decision to trade Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis to the Thunder in exchange for the experienced forward raised a few eyebrows, and angered fans, many of whom thought the future of the franchise should be based around Oladipo. Vogel evidently didn’t hold the same idea. He instead wanted a big-man to spear-head his side on offense.
The said spear-head, Serge Ibaka, is enjoying fruitful success acting as the pivot and one of the main scoring outlets (along with Evan Fournier) for the Magic. This being a role he is unfamiliar with, as the majority of his time at the Thunder was spent in the enormous shadows cast by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Delving into the team’s stats we can see that Ibaka leads the franchise in blocks, second highest in minutes (30.5 average) and points per game (15.0), as well as sitting in an admirable third place for rebounds per game (6.5), 3-point percentage, field goal percentage (48.3%) and free throw percentage (86.8%). For a player who isn’t used to being the center of attention, he isn’t doing that bad a job.
Ibaka is perhaps having his greatest season from behind the arc. Over his eight-year career, the Congolese-born player has only ever shot a higher percentage from three once more than this season. That was in his rookie year in 2009. He shot two three pointers, making one.
This year, Serge has been an omnipresent force from downtown, with a resounding 41.6% completion rate from a player who before 2013 had only made 22 career total three pointers.
He has jacked up 89 shots from outside and made 37 of them so far this season. What is more impressive, however, is that the big man is projected to completely blitz his previous single season record for three pointers made (77 in 2014/15) by 51%.
The Magic currently reside in a lowly 26th out of all 30 NBA teams for total points this season, while they sit nearer the foot of the table for points per game, so Ibaka and Fournier’s hot streak from three is a welcoming sight.
It isn’t just on offense where Ibaka is making his presence felt, his defensive game isn’t too bad either. With an average of 1.8 blocks a game, it’s fair to say he’s more than pulling his weight on the defensive end.
While the Magic remain just short of woeful on offense, coach Vogel can take pride in the fact that his side’s defense is blossoming. The Southeast Division occupants currently allow their opponents an average of 96.2 PPG, a stat that see’s them sit in 7th place in the league for this particular aspect. While not solely to blame, Serge Ibaka has played a large part in this.
If prior season averages are anything to go by, the 27-year old is only going to improve on defense as the season ages. Collectively, in his last four seasons not including the current, Ibaka was averaging 2.5 blocks per game. With a current total of 47 blocks this season, he’s projected to equal and even slightly better his total from last year. All the aforementioned signals that there’s still a lot more this experienced forward can offer.
As the season progresses, only time will reveal whether the Magic can iron out their flaws and begin a legitimate challenge for play-off contention. But with the likes of Serge Ibaka growing into his role more and more every single game, the possibilities are endless.
All statistics for this articles were acquired through the NBA’s official statistical spreadsheet site.